The issue of racial equality in America has recently dominated headlines and discussions. It makes Americans ask hard questions, self-reflect, and seek appropriate change. Christians naturally want to know how they can talk about the issue in a way that honors God, lovingly respects others, and is open to appropriate challenges or pushback. How much should we make of race?

The Bible offers a somewhat paradoxical view of people when it comes to race. On the one hand, a person’s race matters a lot. On the other hand, race doesn’t matter that much at all.

First, race matters because God is the creator of all things and all people. A person’s skin color and family origins are no accident. God chose the color of our skin. God chose our place in our genealogies. So people should never have to feel like they need to apologize for their race. All people are descended from the first human beings (Adam and Eve, who were made in God’s image), which means all people have equal value and dignity before God. Jesus died for people of every race because God so loved the entire world. Every person in the world. Each individual, each race, every skin color, people with different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences—they matter. Because they matter to God.

At the same time, while race matters, it isn’t our foundational identity. It is, in fact, secondary to who we are as human beings. When God looks at his children, he doesn’t primarily see race (like Jew or Gentile in Jesus’ day). Through faith in Jesus, he sees people first as his children. Race doesn’t play any part when it comes to finding your place in God’s family. Race doesn’t matter when it comes to being accepted by God or being forgiven of sins. Race doesn’t help or hurt you before God. It’s simply variety, because God loves to celebrate diversity. (It’s why he made us all so different.) But it’s not the most important thing.

Believers in Jesus need to take race seriously, especially when it comes to hurt or injustice that has taken place because of sinful or arrogant views on race. But the Bible encourages us to not let race be the only factor in the discussion (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile”). People are first-and-foremost people. See people like God does. Love the individual. Appreciate and celebrate diversity. Picture what heaven will be like, with so much diversity, and let that instruct how much you make of race on earth.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).